February 12, 2014

The Mailbox: Looking for char siu, and two chicken recipes

A reader asks where to find Chinese barbecue pork. Also, get the recipe for roast chicken with lemon and herbs, and Thai chicken soup.

Seeking char siu

I am a big fan of the Korean Plaza Market in Rancho Cordova. The one thing I can’t find there is char siu, Chinese barbecue pork. I have asked workers there if they have it but no one there seems to know what it is. I’m surprised they wouldn’t have it. Can someone help?

– Bill Kenney, Rescue


Engagement chicken (roast chicken with lemon and herbs)

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 1 1/2 hours

Serves 4

Melissa Manning of Grass Valley was looking for a recipe that was in The Bee some time ago called engagement roast chicken using lemon and butter.

Tom Kassis of Carmichael shares this Bee recipe that originally came from “100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know.” Cynthia Scanlon of Sacramento shared a similar recipe and says that the story behind the name of this dish is that it’s so good, when served by a single woman to her true love, an engagement soon follows. Valentine’s Day is coming up, and, guys, you could make this dish for your lady if you plan to propose to her on this romantic holiday.


1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 whole lemons, including 1 sliced for garnish

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Fresh herbs for garnish (4 rosemary sprigs, 4 sage sprigs, 8 thyme springs and 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley)


Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the giblets from the chicken, wash the chicken inside and out with cold water; then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander for 2 minutes.

Put the chicken dry with paper towels. Place the chicken breast side down in a medium roasting pan fitted with a rack and pour the lemon juice all over the chicken, inside and out. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, inside and out.

Prick 2 whole lemons three times each in three different places with a fork and place them deep inside the cavity. Chicken cavity size may vary, so if one lemon is partly sticking out, that’s fine. (Tip: If the lemons are stiff, roll them on the countertop with your palm before pricking to get the juices flowing.)

Put the chicken in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Using tongs or two wooden spoons, turn the chicken breast side up. (Turning the chicken 15 minutes into cooking keeps the meat moist.) Insert a meat thermometer in the thigh, and return the chicken to the oven and roast for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees and the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with a fork. Continue roasting if necessary. Keep in mind that cooking times in different ovens vary.

Roasting a chicken at 350 degrees takes approximately 18 to 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. And here’s the secret: Pour the juices from the roasting pan on top of the sliced chicken; this is the “marry me juice.” Garnish with fresh herbs and lemon slices.

Per serving: 491 cal.; 42 g pro.; 2 g carb.; 33 g fat (10 sat., 15 monounsat., 8 polyunsat.); 168 mg chol.; 1,597 mg sod.; 0 g fiber; 63 percent calories from fat.


Thai chicken soup with coconut milk and galanga

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 5 to 10 minutes

Serves 4

Kathy Dagang of Sacramento loved the Thai vegetarian soup served at La Bou. They no longer serve this dish so Dagang was hoping for the recipe or one similar.

Michele Johnson of Sacramento found this recipe in “The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking” by Mai Pham (Prima Publishing, 274 pages, $18.95). Pham is the owner and chef of famed Lemon Grass restaurant in Sacramento. Her husband, Trong Nguyen, is the founder of the La Bou chain.


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced lemon grass

1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground chili paste, or to taste

One 1-inch section frozen or fresh galanga, thinly sliced and bruised with the back of a knife

3 cups homemade unsalted or canned low-sodium chicken stock

2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

1/3 pound chicken breasts or thighs, skinned, boned and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (omit chicken for vegetarian version)

1 cup straw or white mushrooms

1 cup cubed red ripe tomato

1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 kaffir lime leaves, cut in half

6 fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped for garnish


Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat until moderately hot. Add the shallot, garlic, lemon grass, chili flakes and chili paste and brown slightly, about 30 seconds. Working quickly and without burning the spices, add the galanga, chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and add the chicken (if using), mushrooms and tomato. As soon as it comes to a second boil, turn off the heat, add the lime juice and lime leaves, and serve immediately. Garnish with cilantro.

Per serving, without chicken: 313 cal.; 8 g pro.; 12 g carb.; 29 g fat (23 sat., 3 monounsat., 3 polyunsat.); 0 mg chol.; 781 mg sod.; 1 g fiber; 77 percent calories from fat.

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